Illegal settlers threaten gazetted forests

A DRAFT national forest policy document has revealed that most gazetted forestry land was under threat from illegal settlers.

Source: Illegal settlers threaten gazetted forests – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 6, 2016


Zimbabwe has 24 gazetted indigenous forests covering 800 000 hectares. The forests are preserved to promote soil protection, nutrient recycling, biodiversity conservation, climate regulation, wildlife habitats and providing non-timber products, among other benefits.

But, according to a policy document, efforts by the Forestry Commission to engage with communities surrounding these gazetted forests have not yielded much because of limited participation by the communities.

“The Forestry Commission has over the years piloted joint forest management models with communities neighbouring protected forests, where local communities are allowed to collect thatch grass and other non-timber products from the forests,” notes the policy document read.

“However, these have met with limited success because of lack of participation by beneficiary communities at every stage and the offer of fewer benefits to communities than they could obtain from the forests. This has led to increased timber and game poaching as well as illegal settlements.

“Gazetted forests are, therefore, under threat from illegal settlers, who are intent on settling in and earning a living from them.”

In recent years, the country has witnessed a reduction in the size of gazetted forests due to illegal land occupations and notable among these in Midlands province is Mapfungautsi State Forest in Gokwe South district.

When Mapfungautsi was gazetted as a State forest in 1953, it measured 101 000 hectares, but half of it has been taken over by invaders.

In an interview on the sidelines of the first draft national forest policy meeting in Gweru last week, Forestry Commission spokesperson, Violet Makoto, said the organisation was committed to engaging all stakeholders in preserving gazetted forests.